What would make a scenic and culturally enriching trip abroad even more special? Martha Pirkle has found the answer: bonus chocolate.
“I love Dove chocolates, so I always have plenty of Dove chocolates for everybody,” said Pirkle, director of alumni and community relations for the LaGrange College Alumni Association. “I love to surprise our travelers every day of the trip with little gifts and refreshments like that.”
Ever since the alumni association began traveling in 2010, Pirkle has woven fun extras like chocolates into the 3D Journeys travel program to encourage additional smiles. Groups never know what a trip has in store for them until they are on it.
The west Georgia college’s alumni trips combine a lecture series at the school with fun and fascinating experiences at a related destination.
For the Love of Travel
In the late 2000s, when Pirkle sat down with the LaGrange College president and his wife to determine a new strategy to engage their alumni members in the life of the college, the idea of an alumni travel and lecture program came up.
“When we had the idea to start creating trips for alumni, I thought, Oh that’s fun; I’ve always wanted to start a travel program,” said Pirkle. “I always love to start new programs, and I love traveling, so it was exciting.”
The program developed as an extension of LaGrange College’s student study-away program that began in 2001. To enlarge students’ world perspectives, the college guarantees each student a travel experience.
This focus on global engagement meant something to Pirkle not just professionally, but also personally because she learned to love travel at a young age.
“I traveled a lot growing up,” said Pirkle. “You can never travel enough, but I did travel often.”
Offering a similar elective travel program for the college’s alumni seemed a natural fit. Pirkle worked with the first lady of the college to start the program by gathering together a community of volunteers for input on how to adapt the travel program from youth to adults of about 50 years and older.
The program’s international trips begin long before departure: Between January and April, various professors from the university offer a four-part lecture series on the upcoming destination. The lectures are open not only to alumni and those traveling, but also to the wider community.
“The lecture series is an opportunity to travel without a suitcase,” said Pirkle. “We always get around 100 to 120 people at each of the lectures. Because of the series, when we go on the trip, the group is already exposed to a lot of information about the country.”